A couple who led a charity campaign for a woman suffering from the rare Lyme disease believe their own seven-year-old daughter has caught the tick-borne infection.
Sheffield couple Andy and Fallon Marlow, who run a boxing gym in Dronfield, have previously raised cash for Vannesa Boyd, currently being treated in America at a specialist clinic.
Now their own daughter Madison, by sickening coincidence, has been struggling with identical symptoms.
It was Vanessa who suggested the Coal Aston schoolgirl was tested for Lyme – and blood tests came back positive for a bacteria recognised as a cause of the highly-dangerous illness.
Now the Marlows are being forced to launch a new campaign to raise cash to send Madison to the same clinic in Washington.
They plan to fly out soon and are holding a charitable ‘Medicine 4 Madison’ family fun day at the Akademy gym, Dronfield, on Saturday, September 10, to help meet the costs.
Sheffield’s Kell Brook, who fights for the world middleweight title on the same night, has already donated a signed photograph, shorts and boxing gloves as prizes.
Andy, who was born in Pitsmoor, Sheffield, and Fallon, from Page Hall in the city, believe the youngster may have been infected by an infected tick four years ago, when she was playing in fields in Eyam, Derbyshire.
“I remember pulling something out of the bite mark at the time” he said.
“Since then, she has had a variety of symptoms, off and on, including rashes, heart palpitations, dizziness, water infections and headaches. Her schooling has suffered and she’s had behavioural problems.”
Vanessa, a former gym member at Dronfield, says many of Madison’s symptoms mirrored what she has suffered.
“Originally, Madison had all sorts of tests but not for Lyme,” said the father.
“So at Vanessa’s suggestion, we kept bugging them for one and eventually she was referred to Sheffield’s Children’s Hospital.
Then we got a letter from Public Health England showing she had positively tested for two elements which tally with Lyme.
“America is 20 years ahead of us in treatment of that, so we are going there for an initial four-hour consultation with an expert.
“We are desperately hoping they can give us the right medication – Madison has only ever been prescribed antibiotics here – and give us the answers we want.
“We plan to be there for 10 days, but we may have to stay a lot longer.”
Andy said the couple were initially devastated with the results of the tests but were now focusing on doing everything they can to help Madison.
“It is a huge irony, given the fact we helped Vanessa. At first I thought ‘No, it can’t be, it’s too much of a coincidence’.
“Life isn’t easy at the moment, Fallon has been beside herself with worry, but you’d do anything for your own kids.
“Madison is picking up the odd detail about having Lyme disease, but she is cool about going to America!”
Ticks are tiny spider-like creatures which live in woodland areas in the UK and elsewhere and feed on blood. Lyme disease can often be treated effectively if it is detected early on, says the NHS.
But if it is not treated or treatment is delayed, there is a risk victims can develop severe and long-lasting symptoms.
* Want to help? Donate at the fun day on September 10 at Callywhite Lane, Dronfield, or ring the Akademy, on 01246 291818.